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Superintendent Apologizes for Racial Harassment of Samohi Student

Also, concerned parents urge the school board to ban chocolate milk from SMMUSD schools.

The Board held a special meeting Thursday night to examine a possible new state budget. Plans for the discussion, however, might have been derailed earlier in the afternoon when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the budget, calling it full of “questionable maneuvers."

Instead, two separate issues brought up in public comments grabbed the attention of the board and drew calls for closer inspection of district policies.

Victoria Gray, whose son was the victim of racial harassment at , explained to the board how neither the district, nor Samohi, notified her about the incident involving her son. According to Gray, she became aware of the occurrence only after another parent had called to inform her weeks later.    

Gray’s son, who is black, was apparently chained to a locker by his peers; a noose was also in the locker room and placed there by white students.

Gray proposed to the board that a mass e-mail be sent out to parents regarding such future incidents, and that a racial-intolerance policy be added to the already-established policy parents and students must sign concerning weapons, cellphones and drugs. Currently the district policy regarding hate-motivated behavior does not say that parents need to be notified when such an incident occurs.

publicly apologized to Gray, saying he felt that the district had “erred” in not informing Gray.

Cuneo did meet with Gray prior to the board meeting and, according to Cuneo, a mass e-mail has been sent out explaining the steps the district is taking over the incident, including counseling support and orientation for future freshmen.

“We do not tolerate this on our campus, and [we] take it very seriously," Cuneo said. "We’ll take every step to make sure that all students are respected on our campus, and we want to promote a positive environment and celebrate diversity."

Many on the board also expressed feelings of regret to Gray and suggested that the bullying and harassment policy be brought back to the board for examination; a review of many of the discipline policies are set to be looked at in the summer.

Just prior to Gray’s comments other concerned parents and students urged the board to follow the Los Angeles Unified School District’s recent decision to ban chocolate milk from its schools. 

Parents who are part of a group called "Santa Monica-Malibu Schools for the Food Revolution" asked the board to take out flavored milk from the schools in the SMMUSD, citing childhood obesity and the high amount of sugar content in flavored milk.

The milk issue also received a … response from the board.

“I don’t understand why—at this point—we would have another carton of flavored milk on our campuses … unless somebody can prove to us it’s beneficial,” Board Member Ralph Mechur said. Board President Jose Escarce felt the issue went beyond just flavored milk and suggested that other artificially flavored beverages be included in the conversation.

The board plans to bring back the beverage issue at a later meeting in July.

Of course, a lengthy discussion about did take place near the midway point of the six-hour-long meeting.

The board went over a series of budget scenarios, projections of an unrestricted general fund that was met with some confusion and contention amongst board members. The key issue was whether the board should submit to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and the public, a list of potential cuts considered in the district's expected multimillion-dollar shortfall.

Some members of the board felt that displaying such a list would create misunderstanding among the public when a list of considered cuts would only go to satisfying LACOE.

“We’re going to be approving a budget, and when you approve something, it feels that you’re approving the elements inside it, including this list,” Board Member Nimish Patel said. “And that’s the confusion we don’t want the public to have; that we haven’t agreed on it, and even though we may just say it’s a list, just something for consideration, it’s just too difficult to explain to somebody to someone that’s not been at these meetings on a monthly basis."

A list of cuts must be submitted to the LACOE by June 30.  

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